Learning with Literature

Throughout the spring semester, my ability to read and analyze works along with writing comprehensive papers has increased in a great way. In high school, my teachers provided weak material to read that did not really boost my ability to read comprehensively. Now that I’m in college, English 131.01 allowed me to read texts that are more advanced than those I have previously read, and analyze them on a collegiate level. While english is not my favorite subject, I still feel that I have learned a great amount, and the class has helped me set a solid foundation for the rest of my college career. This course has helped me personally with critical thinking, the development of an essay, and analyzing long written works.

The beginning of the course set the bar for how the rest was going to be. On the first day, Professor Lucas walked into the room, sat down next to one of us students, and simply said, “who am I?” This set the tone for the class, critical thinking. Professor Lucas did a fantastic job by making us think deeply about the works we read. Every time we reviewed a text she asked us what certain things meant, or at least what we thought it meant. Sometimes we all just stopped and sat in silence for a minute to think, other times some of us had responses immediately. Regardless of this, it shows how much we had to think each day. Every day we had to be ready for everything Professor Lucas brought to us. If we weren’t prepared each class, it was clear and obvious.

One of the most important elements of an essay is the thesis statement. I had learned this early in my life, but had not realized how important it really was until this class. The thesis statement presents a road map for the rest of the essay, showing what you are going to discuss. We use the thesis to keep the reader’s attention to dive into the body paragraphs. While the body is the thickness and meat of the essay, the thesis is basically the seasoning or special sauce that keeps the reader intrigued. Without it, people reading would be confused and wondering what in the world you are talking about. This just shows the importance of the thesis statement.

The two main works that we read for the class were Swing Time by Zadie Smith, and Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. Both of these works were difficult for me to read personally, I enjoyed Serafina and the Black Cloak more than the other. The quote that stood out to me the most was “never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, both dark and bright, and they will ensnare your soul.” (Beatty 60, 61). This quote set the stage for the whole book, because this was one of the most key points later in the book. Another major quote that was engraved on a statue was, “our character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight” (Beatty 139). This quote makes a great lesson for everyone to learn, which is that our bravery adds more to our character rather than whether we win or lose. Winning and losing is trivial and does not matter, it’s what is in the heart that matters.

Overall, this english class has helped me set a base for my next few years in college and beyond. While english is my least favorite subject, I have still enjoyed being able to learn new ways to analyze works and compose pieces of writing. Now I am comfortable reading more advanced books than I previously have read, and go into the readings with an ability to analyze and comprehend the text better. This english class has paved the way for me to continue on the road to success throughout my college career.


Work Cited

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. 2015. Disney Hyperion, 2016


Annotated Bibliography

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. 2015. Disney Hyperion, 2016

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is a story about a young girl who finds out the reason behind children disappearing in the Biltmore mansion. A strange man wearing a black cloak walks the corridors of the Biltmore in the night, taking children. Serafina teams up with Braeden Vanderbilt, nephew of the Biltmore’s owner to find out who this mysterious man wearing a black cloak is.


Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin, 2017.

Swing Time, by Zadie Smith, is a book told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator. Telling the stories of a young girl and adult woman’s life. The novel transitions back and forth from her childhood and her adulthood seven different times. From living in total adolescence to eventually moving out to be on her own in the workforce, the narrator undergoes many struggles with friendships and work. Overall, the novel highlights the friendship between the narrator and Tracey, a dancer who eventually falls into poverty.


Lewis, Michael. “Chapter One.” The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Norton, 2006, pp. 15–16.

In Chapter One of The Blind Side, Michael Lewis describes the ending of Joe Theismann’s career. As he describes it, he tells every single detail between each second of the play before Theismann takes the hit that ends his pro football career. At the end of the excerpt, Lewis states that Theismann is “at the mercy of what he can’t see,” hence the name of the novel, The Blind Side.


Twenge, Jean. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”. The Atlantic, September. 2017.

In Jean Twenge’s article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” she discusses the effects of smartphones on today’s society. She states that people today over-use their devices and end up becoming more isolated, depressive, and suffer sleep deprivation. Overall, Twenge disapproves of the way today’s society is using technology too much, and wants to share her opinions to start a change.


Lane, Anthony. “Reality Hunger,” Review of Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg and Lean on Pete, directed by Andrew Haigh. The New Yorker, 9 Apr. 2018, pp. 80-81.

The article “Reality Hunger,” by Anthony Lane, is a review of the film Ready Player One. In addition to the review of Steven Spielberg’s film, Lane connects it to Andrew Haigh’s story of a boy and a horse. As Lane draws multiple comparisons between the two, he eventually concludes his review with the true message of Spielberg’s film.


Collins, Billy. Snow Day. The Poetry Foundation, 2016.

Snow Day, by Billy Collins, is a poem that describes the snowy scenery that he sees outside of his window, portraying all the activities that a day full of snow includes. While Collins loves being outside in the snow, he decides to stay inside with his warm tea while listening to the radio. Overall, the poem gives the reader a great description to paint a picture of what he sees during this day of snow.


Shadow and Light

Swing Time, a novel by Zadie Smith, is a story that “swings” back and forth through an approximately twenty-five year period of the unnamed narrator’s life from her first dance class at the age of seven in an old church in northwest London, to a scandal that ends her nine-year career as a personal assistant to a global pop superstar. Throughout those twenty-five years, the narrator reveals her own story through the stories she tells of the dominant female characters in her life:  her mother, an aloof, self-taught feminist activist; Tracey, her talented and manipulative childhood friend; and Aimee, her self-absorbed, superstar boss. As the unnamed narrator tells these stories it becomes clear that she has allowed other people’s lives and choices to dictate who she is and define her path in life. It is only when her mother is in hospice, near death and Aimee has fired her from her job that the narrator is forced to face the truth that she has lived in the shadows and has no true identity.

The unnamed narrator’s unconscious decision to live in the shadows of others begins early in her life and is foreshadowed by her negative opinion of herself. When we first meet the narrator, we discover she is a young biracial girl being raised in London’s low-income public housing estates with a white father and a black Jamaican mother. Her negative view of herself is seen when she refers to herself as a “horse-faced seven year old” (10) and describes her face as “ponderous and melancholy with a long, serious nose, and my eyes turned down, as did my mouth” (9). She discovers her passion for dance at an early age, but soon feels overshadowed by her new friend Tracey, who is a natural dancer with foot arches the narrator describes as being like “two hummingbirds in flight” (15), while she describes her own feet as “square and flat” (15).  

Along with her passion for dance, we discover the narrator has a love and talent for singing. It is probably the only ability she attests to having, as follows, “I became aware that my voice…had something charismatic in it, drawing people in. This was not a technical gift: my range was tiny. It had to do with emotion. Whatever I was feeling I was able to express very clearly” (25). Unfortunately, the narrator chooses not to pursue this gift because her mother doesn’t acknowledge her talent and early on her friend Tracey and later her boss Aimee are rude to her about her singing when they clearly hate being upstaged by someone else’s talent. We also learn that the narrator is bright when her teacher offers her the opportunity to test into a better school, but she rejects this chance to take a different path than her classmates by purposefully failing the test. The narrator’s negative opinion of herself early in life helps explain why she chooses to live in the shadow of others.

Relationships can totally influence a person’s ideas and beliefs and the narrator completely allows her relationships to define her. The mother-child relationship generally has a big impact on the way a child sees the world, and this is definitely true of the narrator’s relationship with her mother. Her mother’s ambition to raise herself out of her poor beginnings and current lower class life to become an educated, politically active and well-respected member of the middle class completely overshadows marriage and motherhood. This leaves the narrator unsure of her own self-worth. For example, she says, “My earliest sense of her was of a woman plotting an escape, from me, from the very role of motherhood” (18).

In addition to her relationship with her mother, the narrator’s relationship with her childhood friend, Tracey, is deeply complicated and greatly influences the narrator’s life. She thinks her friend Tracey is perfection, and is infatuated with her talent and fascinated and intimidated by her boldness and confidence. When the narrator starts high school without Tracey, who is now going to a stage school, she feels lost and alone. This is indicated when she says, “I found out what I was without my friend: a body without a distinct outline. The kind of girl who moved from group to group, neither welcomed nor despised, tolerated and always eager to avoid confrontation. I felt I made no impression” (213). Throughout the twenty-five years of the narrator’s stories, she continually imagines Tracey’s life and seeks her out even when her childhood friend is cruel, manipulative and vengeful.

We continue to watch the narrator seek a life in the shadows when she becomes the personal assistant to Aimee, a famous pop star. Aimee is an energetic, insanely rich, celebrity that demands total loyalty and dedication from the people that work for her. The narrator’s mother expresses her frustration with her daughter’s all-consuming job, exclaiming, “…you don’t have a life. She has a life. She has her men and her children and her career-she has the life… You service her life…” (154). After uncharacteristically questioning one of Aimee’s decisions, the narrator discovers that if you disagree with Aimee or step outside the lines that Aimee has drawn for you, she will find a way to punish you. It is when the narrator steps too far outside of Aimee’s lines that the fate of her career as Aimee’s assistant is sealed and she finally discovers that she has no true identity.

After spending the first quarter of her life allowing it to be defined by others, we see the narrator’s comfort with her subservient life begin to unravel. As she watches Aimee at her son’s birthday party, the narrator describes feeling like an outsider looking in and writes the following, “But why should she get to take everything, have everything, do everything, be everyone, in all places, at all times” (340).  After Aimee fires her for having an affair with a man that Aimee herself desires, the narrator finds herself back in London with no idea of what tomorrow will bring. She goes for a walk to distract herself from her problems and ends up in a theater watching a director’s film discussion. When a clip from “Swing Time,” a dance movie she watched repeatedly as a child, begins to play she taps along to the music and feels like she is being carried away by the sound as she writes, “I felt a wonderful lightness in my body, a ridiculous happiness, it seemed to come from nowhere. I’d lost my job, a certain version of my life, my privacy, yet all these things felt small and petty next to this joyful sense I had watching the dance, and following its precise rhythms in my own body” (4). It’s at this moment that the narrator begins to discover joy in herself and ultimately face the truth about the life she has chosen to live in shadows.

We see the ultimate picture of the narrator finally beginning to discover herself when she admits the revelation of this truth, “…that I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I had never had any light of my own. In a sense, I experienced myself as a kind of shadow” (4).  Hopefully, she will now take this truth, find a name and make some light of her own.

Introductory Post

Throughout my entire life since the age of about 4 years old, I have loved the game of basketball. It’s a perfect game. It requires a great level of skill and some athleticism. I began with a YMCA basketball league in Nashville, Tennessee, which is where I was born. This was when I really began my love for the game, with my dad as my coach. Over the years I played more YMCA leagues, and then when I reached middle school, I played for Odessa Christian School. This was where I realized that I excelled in basketball more than any other sport. Moving on to high school, I realized that I could actually have some of my college tuition paid if I took it seriously.Image result for luke bagbyDuring the summers of my junior and senior years, I played competitively on an AAU team in order to get some college recognition. Eventually, I was recruited by several Division III schools, along with Lenoir-Rhyne University. After my senior basketball season, I was ready to commit to LR. Image result for luke bagby


After graduating high school and eventually coming to LR, it has been a huge transition and change in my life. I’ve had to learn a ton of responsibility and discipline to keep my life together in order to balance both school and basketball. Regardless of how difficult it is, I love it. I’m extremely thankful for basketball and I am thankful to be attending this school.

Image result for luke bagby